How I manage my anxiety disorder at university

David, Physics and Mathematics BSc

Hi, my names David, I’m from Belfast and I’m about to enter my fourth year at Loughborough University. I study Physics and Mathematics and I also have an Anxiety disorder. When I was in Upper-Sixth and I told my pastoral care teacher I wanted to go to Loughborough, she replied much to my dismay that I ‘should consider staying in Belfast for university.

The Beginning 

I should probably rewind slightly, I have been on anti-depressants for four years and am prone to having the odd panic attack, so you can understand why people thought I should stay in Belfast for uni; it was the obvious choice as it was where my entire support network was. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my pastoral care teacher; she is the reason I didn’t end up dropping out of school when my mental health was at its worst. She was always there to support me and make any adjustments I needed and is the closest thing to a saint that I have encountered in my life. However, as you can probably guess, when Upper Sixth David was told he couldn’t do something, he had a tendency to do it anyway. Besides, when I started my medication I made a vow to myself  that I wouldn’t let anxiety hold me back in life. So now here I am at Loughborough, and it’s honestly the best decision I have ever made.  

David at school in his school shirt which has writing all over it.

Before you ask, no I have not got more photogenic since Sixth form

Mental Health Support 

For me, whilst searching for universities, mental health support was hugely important. I used to go through university websites searching for all of the support they could offer me. Part of the reason I choose Loughborough was that it was the only university I had considered that had loads of information about mental health support available on its webpages.  

I sent the Mental Health Support Team (MHST) an email before I started at Loughborough University explaining my situation and from that moment on, they have been exceptional. They made adjustments for me in my exams, allowing me to sit them in a room of 6 people with 25% extra time, which really eradicated a lot of my exam stress. I also have meetings with a mental health support worker regularly and as frequently as I require, allowing me to talk through any issues I am having. 

If I didn’t have the MHST team, I probably wouldn’t have made it this far in uni. They have proved invaluable in helping me deal with the low points I have due to stress. Luckily for me, studying at Loughborough has helped me grow as a person so much that these low points are becoming few and far between. Loughborough has pushed me to grow as a person and has helped my confidence to skyrocket.

David watching the sunset over camp at Kilimanjaro.

One of the things Kilimanjaro was good for was totally candid, not staged at all, photos for my Instagram. Here is one a few nights before summit of me watch the sun set over the clouds. 

Arriving at University 

When I look back to my halls of residence move in day, I can’t put into words how anxious I was. All I wanted to do was go home. I went to my halls alternative fresher’s night (most halls organise these during freshers, in this case we watched Jurassic world in the common room) because the thought of a night out made me feel like I would throw up. If you had told me then that through the Students Union (LSU) I would be able to climb Mt Kilimanjaro, (or Kili as us folks that have climbed the summit like to call it) I wouldn’t have believed you for a second.  

Moving away from home is terrifying and I wouldn’t blame you if you feel like you can’t do it. However, you should never let that fear stop you from trying; once I got over my initial fears, I have never wanted to go back home (much to my mother’s dismay). I spent so much time with so many new friends, some of which I am certain will last a lifetime.   

David wearing his Irish rugby top sitting next to a friend outside.

Sometimes it is useful to wear Irish rugby shirt’s so people stop thinking I am Scottish. Making friends was a big worry during freshers but the great thing about university is you will always find people as weird as you. 

How I have grown as a person 

The point I have tried to get across in this blog is that coming to university is a terrifying time if you have mental health difficulties and being apprehensive and worried is perfectly normal. You are in no way alone. Just don’t let it hold you back. The beauty of uni, and Loughborough University in particular, is not only the fact that it allows you to grow so much as a person, but that it provides endless support to help you along the way.  

My Mental Health is in the best place it has been for about 10 years and the support I have received from Loughborough has a huge part to play in that. So, while my teacher in Upper Sixth probably had my best interests at heart when she encouraged me to stay at home, I am glad I decided to push myself instead. 

Personal development is the greatest thing about Loughborough for me. Hopefully when I graduate my greatest achievement won’t be the degree I hold in my hand, but the knowledge that even though I will likely never conquer my anxiety, Loughborough taught me how to thrive with it.